16 July 2014

The Driverless Car - A Layman's View

The driverless - or automated - car is considered a future reality. I have asked people about it and everyone has said "No way. I want to be in control". It may in fact show that people enjoy driving anyway, and they prefer that independence. They also may lack confidence in technology to deliver them safely to their destination.

Some benefits: 1) Fewer traffic accidents in basic driving conditions such as motorways. 2) A relaxed journey for the driver. 3) Age, disabilities and intoxication would not be issues in using cars. 4) Reduced traffic police and less insurance. 5) An automonous car could come to pick you up or drive to a garage for servicing without any passengers.
Maybe you prefer a driverless pod

Some drawbacks:
1) People wanting to be in control as mentioned above. 2) A driver losing driver sharpness when constantly being driven around then having to suddenly take the wheel when necessary.
3) Litigation against the car maker if the system fails to stop an accident. 4) Cyber security and communication issues.
5) When the system breaks down, then being able to take over and drive' for example a disabled person. 6) Having the ability to negotiate more difficult road conditions. In other words, computers cannot think. How will they handle sudden, unpredictable situations? 7) With a road obstruction, knowing whether to wait or reverse and take another route.

In summary: On motorways and town roads, I could see the automated car coping. I don't on open roads such as we have in New Zealand that are challenging. The ability for the human brain to suddenly make a decisions for something that could not be predicted is something a computer cannot do. It has to be preprogrammed or it won't know what to do.

Frankly, I see this as a possibility in certain situations but for all scenarios a long time away, perhaps never. There is no doubt more to this than I know, but even a layman's overview shows up the complexity of the subject, both technically and emotionally.

But what about twisty back roads and sudden challenges?

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